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Cyprus: Background

The Cyprus problem remains one of the longest unresolved conflicts in the modern world. Nicosia is the last divided capital city in the world. This decades-old, protracted problem, persistently intertwines the island’s future with its past, creating uncertainty for its population. However, the impact is far more wide-reaching than for solely the two main communities of Cyprus (Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots). The Cyprus problem creates instability for the
region as a whole and potentially increases the risk of conflict and violence.

There are various stakeholders entrenched in the Cyprus problem, including the guarantor powers of Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United Nations, who have been present on the island since 1964, due to inter-communal troubles.

Negotiations to find a peaceful settlement have been held throughout various periods since 1968, and for a bi-zonal bi-communal federation (BBF) since 1977-79, but to no avail. The 2002–2004 Annan Plan peace process was arguably the closest that Cyprus has come to resolving the Cyprus problem, in that it was the only process to result in a referendum. The Annan Plan was a UN proposal for a united Cyprus consisting of a federation based on the
political equality of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. After months of negotiations, the proposal was put to public referendum on the 24th April 2004, a week before Cyprus would join the EU. Turnout was between 87-89% in both communities. 65% of Turkish Cypriots voted “Yes” to the Plan, but only 24% of Greek Cypriots did so, with 76% voting “No”.

As such, finding a solution to the Cyprus problem is also vital to the integrity of the EU, given that Cyprus joined the union in May 2004 as a de facto divided island. This has also resulted in discrepancies between civic rights afforded to both communities, despite efforts on the part of the EU to address issues arising from geographical limits to its jurisdiction.

The years of 2002–2004 saw increasing change in Cyprus. On the 23rd April 2003, the Turkish Cypriot leadership opened the Ledra Palace checkpoint, allowing Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to cross to the other side. Until then, virtually no one could cross from one side of Nicosia to the other, meaning the two main communities of the island remained separated with no contact for nearly 30 years. Over the years, another 8 checkpoints opened, yet the majority of Cypriots continue to live separately within their respective sides.

Following the Annan Plan, peace talks began again in 2008 between Demetris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat, but did not yield a tangible result. The most recent negotiations between Mustafa Akıncı and Nicos Anastasiades came very close to a solution in 2017 in Crans-Montana, but no final agreement was reached.

Still, a comprehensive settlement based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, based on UN parameters and ensuring political equality, remains the only feasible and negotiable model for Cyprus.

There is a need for a thorough appraisal of past peace processes; the accumulation of knowledge and experiences will help develop a road map for peace. Simultaneously, the promotion of a culture of federalism is crucial to finding viable peace in Cyprus, beyond the sphere of politics. Moreover, there is a need for a culture of peace based on dialogue and cooperation, in order for a solution to be sustainable.

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